Wednesday, July 04, 2007

WSIS: a proxy for government control of the Internet or an opportunity for cooperation? A view from DBERR on Internet governance after WSIS

Martin Boyle introduced us to WSIS – the World Summit of the Information Society. Having never heard of it (Am I alone in this? Sounds like the kind of thing I should know about...!), I was pretty grateful to him for starting here. I’m not going to go into great detail about it here but basically, WSIS covers a range of things including:
  • allocation of IP addresses
  • introduction of new generic top-level domains
  • sovereignty of the country code top-level domains
  • control of the root
  • root servers
Each of these issues is closely linked either to revenue generation (we pay to register a new generic top-level domain) or control (sovereignty of the country code top-level domains) or both.

The most interesting thing in this presentation, from my perspective, was some insight into the politics that operate behind the technologies that I use in my day-to-day work. It goes something like this: in most countries, the government is the principal telecoms operator. In the UK, things are no longer like this but I gather that it is still the case in many countries. Clearly, the Internet crosses political boundaries and so a summit of this nature is clearly an opportunity for international cooperation. At the same time, given the revenue and control elements and the vested interest that many governments have in protecting telecoms income in their country, it is also an opportunity for abuse of position in applying some government control.

Like the session on copyright that I attended, this one was of a more theoretical nature rather than practical and so although I don’t have much to take back and apply in the workplace, I have gained a better understanding of the forces that influence Internet technology.

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